Design Teams

Let's generate actionable ideas to transform middle grades programs, practices, and policies so that all young adolescents thrive.

Research presents us with the narrative that early adolescence is an extraordinary opportunity for long-lasting, positive learning and development, if approached at the right time and in the right way. The great challenge is that middle schools today can appear out of sync with the needs and interests of the middle schoolers who attend them. In fact, data shows that the steepest declines in student engagement occur from sixth through ninth grades.1

The purpose of the Remaking Middle School Design Teams is to bring together innovative thinkers and doers to generate ideas, tools, and resources to support the developmental needs of young adolescents. The aim is that ideas generated by the Design Teams can be prototyped, piloted, and evaluated in the field.

1 Gallup’s Student Poll has consistently shown that while health and wellbeing measures actually remain relatively steady in this time period, student engagement in school drops markedly. A recent report from TNTP highlights how declines in student engagement with classroom instruction begin as early as third grade—and precipitously drop between fifth and ninth grades. And the Search Institute finds that young people start out from a high in sixth grade of just under 24 “developmental assets” (out of a possible 40) to roughly 19.5 assets by tenth grade.

2019-2020 DESIGN TEAMS

Following the 2019 Remaking Middle School Summit, Remaking Middle School convened three Design Teams focused on a set of priority areas identified at the summit. Click below to view the team members.

  • Translating research to practice - and practice to research


    • Aleta Meyer, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Senior Social Science Research Analyst
    • Katie Powell, Southmont Jr. High, 6th Grade Teacher


    • Todd Brist, Watertown Middle School, Principal
    • Lori Desautels, Butler University, Assistant Professor
    • Mike Di Marco, Higher Achievement, Chief Strategy Officer
    • Shereen El Mallah, University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
    • Phyllis Fagell, Sheridan School, School Counselor, Journalist, and Author—“Middle School Matters”
    • Seth Feldman, Bay Tech Charter, CEO
    • Meghan Forder, Center for the Developing Adolescent, Communications Director
    • Joanna Fox, Everyone Graduates Center, Deputy Director, Johns Hopkins University School of Education
    • Robyn Harper, Alliance for Excellent Education, Policy & Research Associate
    • Johari Harris, UVA Youth-Nex Center, Postdoctoral Research Associate 
    • Mike Lyons, University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development, Assistant Professor
    • Stephanie Passman, Albemarle County Lab School Campus, Head Teacher
    • Chris Rehm, Rehm Consulting, Educational Consultant
    • Winsome Waite, Alliance for Excellent Education, Vice President 
  • Teacher learning and professional development


    • Penny Bishop, University of Vermont College of Education and Social Services, Professor & Associate Dean for Innovation and Technology
    • Christine Thielen, Middle school math teacher and Chair of the Board of Trustees for the AMLE


    • Robert Berry, University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development, Professor & National Council of Mathematics, President
    • Banhi Bhattacharya, Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), Senior Director of Program Review
    • Todd Bloch, Warren Woods Middle School, 7th Grade Teacher & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • Kyle Conley, Citizen Schools, Vice-President, Impact
    • Sarah Craig, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Social Innovation Fellow
    • Ingrid Grant, Henrico County Public Schools, Director of Middle School Education
    • Penny Howell, University of Louisville/ AERA Middle Level Education Research Special-Interest Group, Associate Professor/MLER SIG Chair
    • Nathan Pietrini, High Jump, Executive Director
    • Rachael Rachau, University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development, Graduate Student
    • David Strahan, Western Carolina University, Taft B. Botner Distinguished Professor of Education
    • David Virtue, Auburn University School of Education, Professor & Department Head
    • Josh Walton, Walton Middle School, Principal
  • School culture and climate


    • Charity Brown Griffin, Winston-Salem State University, Assistant Professor
    • Dimelza Gonzales-Flores, Higher Achievement, Director of Site Operations


    • Gail Anderson, Stephens Middle School, 6th Grade Science Teacher & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • James Barnes, Chestnut Ridge Middle School, Principal & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • Lisa Harrison, Ohio University, Associate Professor & AMLE Board of Trustees
    • Jennifer Kovar, Hauser Junior High School, 6th Grade English/Language Arts Teacher & Team Leader
    • Daniel Oscar, Center for Supportive Schools, CEO
    • Robert Randall, Providence After School Alliance, Director
    • Chad Ratliff, Albemarle County Public Schools, Murray High School and Community Public Charter School, Principal
    • Jenny Roe, University of Virginia Center for Design + Health, Environmental Psychologist
    • Latisha Ross, University of Virginia Youth-Nex Center, Postdoctoral Research Associate
    • Nancy Ruppert, University of North Carolina at Asheville Department of Education, Chair
    • Elizabeth Santiago, MENTOR, Chief Program Officer
    • Jason Vest, Henrico County Public Schools, Teacher & Administrative Aide
    • Megan Vroman, DC Public Schools, Principal

Using a Design Thinking approach, teams identified a driving question, learned about and listened to what people need, and began to brainstorm solutions to the problem.

Get a brief introduction to the three products in the 2019-20 Design Team Product Overview.

Additionally, check out the Design Teams Glossary of Key Terms to become familiar with terms used across the products.


Design Team Products

Translating Research to Practice Design Team

Translate the science of young adolescent development into intentional teaching and learning strategies

Learn More

Teacher Learning and Professional Development Design Team

Promote targeted teaching strategies to achieve student-focused outcomes

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School Climate & Culture Design Team

Inspire and support educators in better understanding and advocating for youth voice in the middle grades

Learn More

As prototypes, we are eager to gather feedback about the products. We hope you will take a few minutes to share your feedback by completing the survey below!







Youth-NEX Logo

Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE) Logo

The Remaking Middle School initiative is an emerging partnership working to build and steward a new collective effort for young adolescent learning and development. Founding partners include the University of Virginia Youth-Nex Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), the Altria Group, and the New York Life Foundation. We are seeking to ignite conversation, action, and a movement to re-envision and remake the middle school experience in a way that recognizes the strengths of young adolescents and ensures all students thrive and grow from their experiences in the middle grades.